When it comes to starting the party, Just Dance 2014 stops just short of bringing a keg, some mixers and a selection of novelty hats for everyone. Ubisoft's latest boogie simulator is all about getting you and your friends off the sofa; providing a weighty menu of new songs, karaoke and even a welcome dose of embarrassing mischief to make it worth rearranging your furniture. Though it doesn't reinvent the wheel, several neat new features and undeniable fun factor makes this latest offering the strongest entry in the series to date.
Please note that this review is specifically focused on the Xbox 360 version, which requires a Kinect sensor in order to play.
Here we go again. Much like any previous Just Dance title, this year's iteration lets you groove along to a 46-strong selecion of pop tunes, including the likes of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Lady Gaga's Applause and Gwen Stefani's Rich Girl. Just Dance 2014's setlist is impressively strong, though its focus on current pop music will likely leave a few more rock and retro fans out in the cold. Oh wait. There's Ghostbusters, YMCA and Prince Ali from Aladdin. So that's me sorted, then, at least before a dance game manages to cater to my weirdly specific Priestess, Dropkick Murphys and Pendulum needs.
Be sure to scrutinise the full tracklist, because it's probably the major deal-maker or deal-breaker here.
Just Dance 2014 is all about having fun and building up a sweat rather than absolutely nailing each routine with painstaking precision, especially when played with Kinect rather than WiiMote waggles. In sharp contrast to Dance Central's laser-sharp emphasis on getting everything absolutely right, here you're just encouraged to mirror the on-screen dancers as closely as you can and have a bit of a laugh. The lack of a physical anchor is both a blessing and curse, in that you're free to dance with your whole body rather than controlling everything with small motions of your right hand, but there's very little in the way of useful feedback and advice on how to improve.
Which is fine in our book. Incredibly forgiving score thresholds, lenient gesture recognition and an inability to fail songs means that you'll always feel like you're properly getting involved, even though you're more likely to be wobbling about like a drunken walrus (see above). Kinect also lets you step up and dance without having to swap controllers or faff about with wristbands, in keeping with the party atmosphere so long as you've cleared enough space. You'll need a lot of it, because Just Dance 2014 is keen to put you through your paces; every track boasting a bevy of extra modes, workout routines or insane challenges. Is there random turbo Charleston? Why yes, yes indeed.
As a true party game through and through, you won't be surprised that Just Dance 2014 is at its best when it gets up to mischief. Channelling WarioWare in all the right ways, some of the more involved routines challenge dancers to carry each other around, pose together in bizarre positions and get incredibly close in the process. So long as you're playing with friends (or vaguely attractive randomers at the very least), it's got that embarrassing party spirit locked down, all without having to spread out the Twister board. Be sure to leave your inhibitions at the door.
Just Dance 2014 is once again underpinned by the Mojo system, which awards in-game currency for pretty much anything you do. Good or bad, you'll end up with credits to spend on alternate routines for each song, some of which are designed for more players, competitive play or even intensive fat-burning workouts with an included calorie meter. A new World Dancefloor mode also lets players around the globe compete in a simultaneously-streamed playlist, which is perfect when you want to dance to something but don't rightly care what. Time-limited challenges and extra objectives are ripe or the taking.
The unlock system sometimes feels forced and arbitrary here, though. Just Dance 2014 is a game designed for a few friends to enjoy over the course of a cocktail-fuelled evening or two, or for kids parties, so having to unlock some of the more interesting modes and song-specific routines is somewhat galling. There's little more annoying than seeing something cool but not being able to play it yet. Every game has to have an unlock system these days, even if it's not actually a good idea. Still, at least every song is available from the start and there's bound to be something fun to bop to for extra Mojo. Be sure to do so with friends, because when played solo, it's a very lonely and rather pointless waste of time since many of the songs are only playable in duets.
Never mind though, because now we have karaoke! Just plug in a USB mike and belt out the lyrics as everyone else in the room writhes on the floor clutching their ears. Why are they doing that? It can't be your amazing, superb, seductive singing. Perhaps it's part of the choreography? As you'd expect, there's no penalty for singing badly, just a trickle of extra MOJO. Plus you'll also be able to lure a couple of wallflowers off of the sofa to boot.
More sociable types can even upload Kinect clips to the Just Dance Community site for extra embarrassment factor.
It's hard to fault Just Dance 2014 on its own merits, but when stacked up next to the Wii U and next-gen console editions, it's hard not to feel just a little short-changed by the Xbox 360 version. The Wii U version lets you take control of the proceedings with the GamePad and boss other players around like a bizarre game of 'Simon Says,' or film the entire thing with the embedded camera. The Xbox One version supports six players and will likely offer even more robust online functionality. And hey, you're more likely to have a bunch of original WiiMotes than a Kinect sensor.
Savvy buyers might want to hold off, but if you've got a Kinect unit, some friends and an appetite for embarrassment, there's still a lot to love here... so long as you're in the market for another Just Dance title.
- Fun-focused, physical and mischievous gameplay drags you off the couch
- Massively well-featured
- Strong soundtrack...
- ...so long as you're mainly into current pop music and a few cheesy classics
- Lack of useful feedback, unlock system can be restrictive in multiplayer
- Wii U and next-gen console editons pack extra features
- It's another incremental dance game, so don't expect anything particularly revolutionary
The Short Version: Just Dance 2014 starts the party with its strong pop soundtrack, plentiful modes, embarrassing mischief and karaoke. Though the Wii U or next-gen console versions are arguably smarter buys than the Xbox 360's Kinect-powered offering, there's still plenty of fun to be had if you're ready to get a groove on.
Note that this score pertains specifically to the Xbox 360 version.